No word from helm of ‘Titanic’

Two major entertainment companies were still waiting to hear from James Cameron on whether his mega-budgeted “Titanic” will sink or swim on July 2, but no word had surfaced as of late Tuesday, according to sources.

Neither Paramount Pictures, which owns the picture domestically and has an estimated $65 million investment in the film, nor 20th Century Fox, which owns the film internationally and is carrying the rest of the cost, has confirmed any date change. But Paramount is reportedly holding off on printing marketing materials announcing the July 2 date.

Asked if “Titanic” will be ready July 2, Paramount Pictures vice chairman Rob Friedman said late Tuesday: “I’ll let you know. I’m not going speculate.”

“Paramount dictates when this film will be released,” added Friedman. “Cameron and myself have not yet finalized when Paramount will release this picture.”

Cameron had originally been expected to let the studios know more than a week ago whether or not he could make the delivery date, but has apparently postponed his decision several times.

Adding to the increased speculation of “Titantic’s” possible move out of the Independence Day frame was the fact that Fox has moved its Walter Matthau/Jack Lemmon film “Out to Sea” to the July 2 date. Columbia Pictures/Amblin Entertainment’s “Men in Black,” starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, remains set for a July 2 launch.

There has been a concerted push by the “Titanic” production team to make the July 2 date, one insider noted. The special effects staff has been working around the clock to finish shots. Fox Filmed Entertainment president and chief operating officer Bill Mechanic told Daily Variety on Monday that they were waiting for the “availability of the effects.”

Sources close to the production said that the digital effects crew at Cameron’s Digital Domain was bristling at suggestions by studio brass that the computer effects were the cause of the delay. While Domain execs would not comment on the status of the project, sources in the effects community said a two-month delay in completing principal photography has made making the deadline a daunting task for the digital effects crew.

Insiders said if the date cannot be made, the picture could push back as far as Christmas.

“I think Fox thought they were getting more of an action film,” said one insider. “What they got was a romancer. Cameron is very proud of this film. He thinks of this as his ‘Doctor Zhivago’ or ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’ For Oscar consideration, he might want to push the release as far as he can toward the end of the year.”

Lightstorm execs were unreachable Tuesday.

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